Ball State Department of Urban Planning introduces new choice

Enroll in the Community Building and Latin America course

Students have until August 29 to register for the Community Building and Latin America course. The course meets Mondays at 6:30 p.m. in Room 310 of the Architecture Building, and students of all majors are welcome to register. Undergraduate students can enroll in the PLAN 498 course and graduate students can enroll in the PLAN 598 course.

Source: Ball State University Communication Center

Nate Howard has never taught at the Ball State or college level, but he has 17 years of experience in Latin America that prepared him to teach his first college class.

Since 2006, Howard has been studying and working for several non-governmental organizations, learning about different countries and their cultures. He worked for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) for nine years, then launched the Utz Kaslimaal Collective in Guatemala in 2015 and the Wájaro Foundation in Colombia in 2016.

“They have what’s called a ‘seed program,’ which is a two-year program [program]”, Howard said. “It’s almost like a Peace Corps program where graduates of a university spend two years doing some kind of community service. The program combines education, learning and service at the same time.

Howard had never taught before, but his master’s degree in international economic development from Eastern University of Philadelphia prepared him to lead the Seed program for MCC in Colombia from 2012-15, where he helped teach and structure the program for the students. He was also responsible for the Hurricane Stan relief program in Guatemala and El Salvador from 2006 to 2008 and a rural development program in San Marcos, Guatemala from 2008 to 2012.

Now Howard is back in the United States, where he teaches Ball State’s new Community Building and Latin American course in the Department of Urban Planning. The course uses Howard’s experiences to explain how indigenous groups live in Latin America and examines how the Western worldview affects their way of life.

“A thriving rural sector is kind of one of the things that suffers from this model,” Howard said. “[The course will also] focus on what it would be like for us to learn from indigenous communities in Latin America and show where these worldviews clash.

Howard also said the course will explain why there are “massive amounts” of Central Americans migrating to the United States, why there are problems with “megacities” in Latin America, and failed anti-imperialist models. in countries like Venezuela and Cuba.

He plans to host two or three guest lectures for the course via Skype, who will be from Indigenous people he met while working in Latin America. It also calls for students to meet three or four people on Zoom, most of them Indigenous leaders.

Howard said he will have class lectures and some required readings, but the class will have a heavy emphasis on student participation.

“We don’t have any required texts — it’ll just be things I’ve read over the years or things that really hit the nail on the head for having a really good class discussion,” Howard said. “It’s not so much focused on busy work…there will be an application in writing, but I think the point is to [end with] one last post where someone talks about how this class connects to their own life.

Howard said the idea for the course came from conversations with Scott Truex, associate professor of urban planning and chair of the Department of Urban Planning.

“We’ve been trying to develop a partnership with a few organizations I’m involved with in Latin America and Ball State,” Howard said. “We may be bringing groups [of students to Latin America] for a week or an intensive two-week course on certain areas or axes related to their field of study.

Howard and Truex have known each other for 15 years and met before Howard returned to school and lived in Muncie. Howard had known Truex’s wife because they were colleagues at Muncie Community Schools, and she said Howard should meet Truex because they had similar interests.

Because of their friendship, Truex said, creating the class was “pretty easy.”

“Every time he came back [to the U.S.], we were meeting for coffee,” Truex said. “So I followed his work and all the different organizations and communities and talked about how we could partner [with them]. All these incredible experiences fit very well with our program… It was not a difficult decision to make.

Since Truex is the head of the urban planning department, he was able to have the course added to the department after getting permission from the university. He and Howard then worked together to develop the class’s curriculum, schedule, and organization.

Truex said that currently there are not many students enrolled in the course as it was developed in the summer of 2021. However, he is excited about the future of the course and where it will lead the Department.

“We’re trying to market it and get it out there because I think if enough people can hear about it, I think they’ll find it really intriguing because [Howard] is just a really good person,” Truex said. “He’s very passionate about sharing what he does, and he’s super excited to have this opportunity.”

Contact Maya Wilkins with comments at or on Twitter @mayawilkins.